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NewSouth author, poet Jacqueline Trimble receives National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship

Monday, March 22nd, 2021 by Matthew Byrne

For the winter quarter of 2021, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Alabama institutions and artists $270,000, supporting the best and brightest creators in the state. NewSouth Books is proud to announce that Jacqueline Trimble, author of American Happiness, received twenty-five thousand of those dollars in support of the furtherance of her work as aTrimble cropped Lois poet. Chosen alongside the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and the city of Tuscaloosa, Trimble’s achievement as an individual is a remarkable one indeed. As she told Alabama State University, where she serves as a professor of English and chair of the Department of Languages and Literature, “The National Endowment for the Arts only bestows this award to poets every other year, which makes it very special and most important to me. While the monetary award is fantastic, the most important thing to me is the level of recognition and encouragement this fellowship gives me as a writer by having a jury of my peers choose my manuscript out of a total of 1,601 in a blind competition. This makes me feel that my long hours of writing poetry are worthwhile … Being named an NEA Fellow is personally awe-inspiring to me.”

Jacqueline Trimble has been a poet and educator for much of her life, working tirelessly to create and share the beauty and art of poetry with students and readers alike. Dr. Jennifer Fremlin, chair of Huntingdon 327-AH front cover 72dpiCollege’s Department of Language and Literature, had this to say about her: “Those lucky enough to have been students or colleagues of Dr. Jackie Trimble know that she is first and foremost a teacher, and her poetry is an extension of that drive to help us all learn to see the world as it is: unvarnished and truthful and painful and beautiful all at the same time.” This NEA fellowship enables Trimble to continue writing full-time without distraction, a gift to us as readers.

American Happiness, her award-winning debut poetry collection, was published by NewSouth in 2016. Alabama Writers Hall of Famer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers wrote this about the collection: “I longed for her kind of poetry, these cut-to-the-flesh poems, this verse that sings the old-time religion of difficult truths with new courage and utter sister-beauty.” To use the language of the pandemic, Trimble’s work is essential, and we should be grateful that she has received this NEA grant that will keep her writing in 2021 and beyond.

More about Trimble’s work and the award can be found from Huntingdon College and Alabama State University.

New Ben Raines release joins books by Brockovich, Thunberg on Booklist list of vital environmental publications

Friday, March 12th, 2021 by Suzanne La Rosa

Envirojournalist Ben Raines has been passionate about the natural world for his entire life, a good bit of which has been spent quietly exploring the Mobile-Tensaw Delta by boat. His new book, Saving America’s Amazon: The Threat to Our Nations Most Biodiverse River System, is the ultimate expression of that mission, as is evidenced in the book’s sweeping discussion about the environmental perils facing the delta and its many glorious companion photographs. The Alabama delta is one of our nation’s most biodiverse ecosystems — it has more species of insects and fish and flora and fauna than Colorado and California combined. Its abundant biodiversity has been recognized by many, including E.O. Wilson, considered the father of the field of biodiversity and the contributor of the foreword to Ben Raines’s book, and now Booklist too, which has named Saving America’s Amazon to its Top 10 Books on the Environment and Sustainability in 2021. Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association, writes that the book is among “the most clarifying and resonant books about environmental issues and sustainability” and that it “tell(s) the elucidating and affecting stories of endangered animals and places…”

Booklist isn’t the only outlet recognizing Saving America’s Amazon as an important new release. WBEZ Chicago’s Reset spoke with Raines about the biodiversity of the delta and how special the area is when compared with other ecosystems around the country. The author’s expertise about the flora and fauna of the Mobile area is on full display in this conversation with Susie An, so nature lovers should delight. Alabama’s top book reviewer Don Noble says that “Ben Raines is on his way to becoming a household name” and writes for Alabama Public Radio that Saving America’s Amazon is “gorgeous and impassioned … jaw-dropping.”  We certainly agree. For Raines, though, it’s all about the Delta. “Coming out in a boat in the delta, you may as well be in the Amazon,” he told Debbie Elliott on NPR’s Weekend Edition. “It’s just so seductive.” Most important of all is its preservation, and Saving America’s Amazon is an important call for us to take its future seriously.

So that every schoolchild in Alabama is familiar with the story of Benjamin Turner, a word about The Slave Who Went to Congress GoFundMe campaign

Thursday, February 25th, 2021 by Suzanne La Rosa

Benjamin Sterling Turner was enslaved in Alabama. Despite obstacles and hardship, Turner would overcome the odds and teach himself to read as a child. That literacy paved the way for Turner to become a successful businessman during the Civil War and the first African American representative in Congress for Alabama during Reconstruction. His story, one of bravery, perseverance, and dedication, has inspired some of Alabama’s most important figures, including Representative Terri Sewell. Rep. Sewell, in a visit to a Selma elementary school classroom, remarked that she stands on Turner’s shoulders. During that very visit, Rep. Sewell donated a copy of NewSouth’s illustrated children’s book about Turner, entitled The Slave Who Went to Congress, to every child in that school’s fourth grade. Inspired by her generosity, the authors of that book, Frye Gaillard and Marti Rosner, in partnership with NewSouth Books have launched a GoFundMe campaign designed to gift a copy of The Slave Who Went to Congress to every public elementary school in Alabama.

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Turner’s story is told for children for the very first time in The Slave Who Went to Congress, a beautifully illustrated picture book that movingly describes Turner’s challenges and achievements. Few are the books about Turner. This true inspirational tale, lauded by many since its publication, will resonate with young readers, particularly those from marginalized and underserved communities. Thus was born the idea of crowdfunding the donation of copies to schools across the state. Please take a moment to consider supporting our campaign with your personal donation, and help empower a new generation of kids with the gift.

Dr. Alan Gribben, Twain scholar and longtime NewSouth collaborator, wins 2021 Eugene Current-Garcia Award

Friday, February 5th, 2021 by Matthew Byrne
The Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Distinguished Literary Scholar, named for the founding editor of the Southern Humanities Review, is a recognition sponsored annually by the Association of College English Teachers of Alabama. The award is given to notable scholars with Alabama roots or those who have made significant contributions to the study of the984b14_67dd9150e5d94a69b0399ada75adfdad_mv2 literary arts in Alabama. In terms of literary achievements in the state of Alabama, there is none as great as the Eugene Current-Garcia. It’s for these reasons that we are proud to announce that Dr. Alan Gribben has been selected for the award in 2021.

Dr. Alan Gribben’s achievements in the study of American literature are indisputable. A college educator for over four decades, Gribben’s devotion to the literary arts has led him to positions at three universities: University of California at Berkeley (1972–1976), University of Texas at Austin (1974–1991), and Auburn University at Montgomery (1991–2019). While teaching Gribben has contributed to scholarship particularly in the field of Twain studies as the former editor and publisher of the Mark Twain Journal (2009 to 2020). The co-founder of the Mark Twain Circle of America, Gribben has written numerous articles on Twain for journals such as Studies in American Humor and Western American Literature. His personal publications include Mark Twain on the Move and Harry Huntt Ransom: Intellect in Motion. In 2011, Gribben collaborated with NewSouth Books on landmark editions of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, editions that excised the racial slurs in those books for those unable to teach the novels without that change. These volumes have proven immensely valuable in ensuring Twain’s books remain on curricula in high schools and colleges.

Dr. Gribben’s scholarly efforts may have culminated in his recently published masterwork, Mark Twain’s Literary Resources, a project forty years in the research and writing. Volume I recreates Twain’s library in an effort to understand the creative inspirations for his work. Praise for Mark Twain’s Literary Resources has come from many quarters, including internationally, and includes this recent quote from Bruce Michelson of the University of Illinois, published in the Mark 72ppi 343-MTLR jacket v301Twain Annual: “The scope of his achievement, a project spanning half a century, will be self-evident to anyone who looks into Mark Twain’s life, work, and cultural adventures with any measure of seriousness.” Long assumed in the popular understanding to have been an unread and simple man, Samuel Clemens is proven to be a voracious and wide-ranging reader in Gribben’s amazing book. Volumes II and III of Mark Twain’s Literary Resources will be available from NewSouth Books in Fall 2021.

Our heartiest and warmest congratulations to Dr. Gribben for his winning of the Eugene Current-Garcia Award, a recognition he shares with fellow NewSouth authors Kirk Curnutt (All of the Belles), Frye Gaillard (A Hard Rain), and Sue Brannan Walker (It’s Good Weather for Fudge). We look forward to following Dr. Gribben’s contributions deep into his well-earned retirement.

Author Steve Suitts stirs up important discussion about school choice with publication of Overturning Brown

Monday, January 25th, 2021 by Matthew Byrne
Schools, like many of our most cherished institutions, face unprecedented challenges at the present time, with educators and schoolchildren among our most at risk of infection from the coronavirus, not to mention the related challenges posed by remote learning, which directly impacts the education kids receive. Now more than ever, our schools need us to advocate at the local, state, and federal levels, pushing for adequate funding and enlightened leadership. Unfortunately, COVID alone is not to blame for the entrenched problems our education system faces. Powerful figures working behind the scenes are doing all they can to divert much-needed public funds to private institutions, already primarily populated by white children from affluent families.

Rising in defense of public schooling is longtime public school advocate Steve Suitts, former executive director of The Southern Regional Council and founding director of the Alabama Civil Liberties Union. His new book Overturning Brown explains how the rhetoric surrounding the “school choice movement” precisely echoes that of Jim Crow segregationists. Cries for choice, free markets, and personal liberty are smokescreens that obscure racism, classism, and discriminatory practices. 

Suitts (and his work) is appearing on media platforms all over the country, inspiring passionate objectors to this form of separate but unequal schools. Of particular import is an article by education historian Diane Ravitch that appeared in the New York Review, highlighting Overturning Brown as a source of key information for those seeking to understand this vastly important issue. Ravitch was also the host of a discussion with Suitts on the Network for Public Education, a recording of which is featured here. Steve was likewise a guest on WAMC Radio for the Best of Our Knowledge show in New York. A Q&A can be found from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Public Funds, Public Schools allowed Sybil Jordan Hampton—an inspiration for Suitts in her efforts to advance school equality—to interview the author.

For more information, see Overturning Browns page on our website!

Author, filmmaker, and educator Ibrahim Fawal passes away

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020 by Suzanne La Rosa

Ibrahim Fawal119055337_10158903011747009_7049757334110341055_n (1933 to 2020), Abe to his friends, was a writer, filmmaker, educator, and one of the most remarkable of NewSouth’s authors. Born in Ramallah, Palestine, he came to the U.S. to attend film school, after which he was the Jordanian assistant director for Lawrence of Arabia. His brother’s sudden death in Birmingham brought him to that city to look after the bereaved family, guide the family business, and become a U.S. citizen. But Abe’s heart was in art, and he began making films, teaching college literature and film classes, and writing what eventually became the PEN Oakland Award-winning On the Hills of God, a sweeping novel exploring the creation of Israel in 1947 from the Palestinian perspective. It and its sequel, The Disinherited, were published by NewSouth.119038749_10158903023267009_3971783978394985773_o In his late 60s, Abe earned a doctorate at England’s University of Oxford, publishing his dissertation on the foremost Arab filmmaker, Youssef Chahine. Abe was a storyteller, raconteur, and connoisseur of fine spirits, food, and women. We miss him.

NewSouth author video sampler: A COVID-19 quarantine project

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

Coronavirus has changed the landscape of book publishing this year, as it has changed nearly every facet of all our lives. In an effort to bring our books directly to you when you are probably spending more time at home, we seized the opportunity to ask our talented authors to read short previews from their books. We hope these videos allow you to engage with the writing world and our published books in a whole new way. Check out the links below for full videos.

Marti Rosner reads from The Slave Who Went to Congress

Kirk Curnutt reads from All of the Belles: The Montgomery Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wanda Lloyd reads from Coming Full Circle: From Jim Crow to Journalism

Rod Davis reads from East of Texas, West of Hell

Ken Woodley reads from The Road to Healing: A Civil Rights Reparations Story in Prince Edward County, Virginia

Frye Gaillard reads from A Hard Rain: America in the 1960s, Our Decade of Hope, Possibility, and Innocence Lost

William Alsup reads from Won Over: Reflections of a Federal Judge on His Journey from Jim Crow Mississippi

Julie Hedgepeth Williams reads from A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells’ Story of Survival

Julie Hedgepeth Williams reads from Three Not-So-Ordinary Joes: A Plantation Newspaperman, a Printer’s Devil, an English Wit, and the Founding of Southern Literature

Aileen Kilgore Henderson reads from Eugene Allen Smith’s Alabama: How a Geologist Shaped a State

Joe Taylor reads from The Theoretics of Love

Jacqueline Trimble reads from American Happiness

Jerry Armor reads from A Home for Wayward Boys: The Early History of the Alabama Boys’ Industrial School

Jennifer Horne reads from Working the Dirt: An Anthology of Southern Poets

Julian McPhillips reads from Civil Rights in My Bones: More Colorful Stories from a Lawyer’s Life and Work, 2005–2015

John Pritchard reads from Junior Ray

Clifton Taulbert reads from The Invitation

American Founders called essential reading by scholars, reviewers, and trumpeters alike

Monday, August 31st, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

The variety of individuals who have called American Founders a must-read are as diverse as they are distinguished. This recently released work of historical genius from Christina Proenza-Coles traces the impact African-descended peoples have had on the American continent, beginning long before the first English ship reached our shores. It is1588383318 this wide-ranging and unique perspective that led Henry Wiencek, author of Master of the Mountain, to call American Founders an “important work” that “offers an extraordinary, compelling new narrative of the African role in creating the Americas of the Western Hemisphere.”

We were thrilled to see American Founders named a finalist for the Foreword INDIES Book Award in the category of history in June of this year. Even more recently, jazz legend and maestro trumpeter Wynton Marsalis surprised us by naming the book his personal favorite on the subject of freedom in a short video for his personal blog. What an achievement for American Founders! Marsalis expertly describes Proenza-Coles’s research and, not surprisingly, ties the significance of the work back to jazz.

Christina Proenza-Coles’s book was also the subject of a penetrating radio program for WYPR’s On the Record, Baltimore’s NPR affiliate. The author herself was a guest, offering insights and little-known stories from American history that show in what remarkable ways AfroAmericans have contributed to the character and early history of our country, including in the struggle for freedom and social justice.

Of course, history is still being made. The momentous events of this moment in the year 2020 place in bold relief the many ways in which African-descended Americans continue to shape our destiny, leading the charge toward a more equitable and just society. For more information, visit http://www.americanfoundersbook.com/.

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman offers unique political perspective in national media upon release of Stealing Our Democracy

Monday, August 10th, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

Don Siegelman, who served as Alabama’s governor from 1999 to 2003, was wrongfully convicted in proceedings he calls politically motivated. He spent more than five years in prison, including, tragically, time in solitary confinement. Now released, Siegelman has become something quite dangerous in the political game: a motivated policy genius who doesn’t need to worry about popularity or elections. Siegelman is focused on pushing forward reform for our justice system, arguing that political corruption in our courts subverts the rights of defendants and that our prisoners are not receiving the care they desperately need, particularly during this pandemic. Siegelman’s important voice has been broadcast over the airwaves following the release of his new memoir, Stealing Our Democracy, including appearances on NPR stations and Sirius XM.

429-4 SOD cover 72ppiIn an interview with On Pointa program produced by NPR affiliate WBUR, Siegelman had this to say about his experience in the justice system: “If you believe that in every situation one should find a purpose . . . I quickly found mine. My purpose now is to expose what’s going on [in the justice system] and try to change it.” If charges can falsely be brought against a sitting governor, what’s to stop the same from happening to anyone?

As governor of Alabama, Siegelman was arguably one of the most influential political leaders in the heart of both the Confederacy and civil rights movement. He shouldered the weight of Alabama’s history of racial injustice with grace, meeting with and celebrating figures like Rosa Parks, C. T. Vivian, and the late John Lewis. Talking with Joe Madison, “The Black Eagle,” on Sirius XM, Siegelman recalled walking with Lewis and then-president Bill Clinton across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where Lewis had been brutally beaten on Bloody Sunday. Siegelman called it the most impactful period of his governorship, remarking that “we all now have to share a greater burden in the struggle for truth, justice, and freedom now that John Lewis and C. T. Vivian have passed.” He agrees with President Obama that the fight continues and that the best way to ensure Lewis’s legacy is to strengthen the legislation he fought so hard for.

And Siegelman isn’t the only one who thinks his prosecution was a sham. A piece in The Washington Spectator analyzes the evidence showing that Karl Rove and other key political figures were covertly involved with prosecutors in his case. Spectator reporter Lou Dubose comments, “If I didn’t know the story . . . I might have considered the title of Siegelman’s new book—Stealing Our Democracy—broad and overstated. Which it is not.” The title of Siegelman’s memoir isn’t an overstatement; unscrupulous politicians, many of them right-wing, are threatening our core values of government through their unlawful use of the justice system. Siegelman’s book is a cautionary tale.

Read more about Stealing Our Democracy here.

NewSouth author, pastor Alan Cross, reckons with Christian response to racism and coronavirus in national media

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 by Suzanne La Rosa

Call it tough love. Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist pastor and NewSouth author, wants to hold accountable Christians who fail to follow the teachings of the Bible in times of social change and strife. Cross had this to say when 1603063501speaking with NPR recently about how Christians have responded to the killing of George Floyd: “The way that we live and work in the world, how we care for our communities, how we care for our neighbors. Those are all things that the Bible speaks really clearly about.” There is no Biblical or theological justification for not decrying police brutality of African Americans or the great social injustices they still experience.

In his book When Heaven and Earth Collide, Cross critically examines the role Southern churches historically played in the civil rights movement, when many actively supported segregation and racial violence. He claims that the Christian reluctance to denounce racism comes from the religion’s habit “to use God as a means to an end” to avoid uncomfortable conflict. As a Christian, he says, “you should see the pain of people around you and say ‘What can I do?’”

Cross has also recently become outspoken about the response of churches to coronavirus. As churches around the country ignore state and federal regulations and continue to hold worship services despite the risk of COVID infection, Cross argues that our focus must be on safely conducting ourselves before reopening prematurely. “Whether we fight this virus in such a way as to marshal all of our resources to save every life we can should not be open for discussion.” Pastors must balance the dual responsibilities of gathering for worship and putting others’ interests before their own—both Biblical tenets, our author asserts.

Learn more about Cross and his opinions at The New York Times, The Bulwark, NPR, and WBHM. When Heaven and Earth Collide is available for purchase from NewSouth Books and your favorite physical and online booksellers.